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Whoso would be a man would be a nonconformist. -Emerson
If there is one part of Emerson’s philosophy that I subscribe to the
most, it is this idea. Few people actually follow their own ideas and
decide for themselves what is good and bad, right and wrong, lawful and
tyrannical. Most people are like sheep intellectually; who follow the
rest of the herd no matter where it goes and what it does. When they
are in the herd there is no thought of examining what they are doing,
they just act and do like the others. In order to become a man, and
if you so should chose a shepherd of these sheep, you must breakaway
from the herd and find yourself and follow those truths which you hold
self-evident. You will then be a man, thinking for yourself and doing
what is right in your heart.
I myself believe that I have broken away from the herd. I am no longer
concerned of what others think of me or my actions. I do only the
deeds that I believe in and find rewarding. People often ask me why do I
run? What is it that compels you to put yourself through such misery? The
answer is quite simply I find it rewarding. It raises my self-esteem
and allows me to take pride in myself for what I have accomplished. And
every time I run it allows me another chance to break way from the herd
and become a man again thinking about what I believe is right for me. The
other question I hear often, usually from the same people, is “Why don’t
I play basketball?” People see that I am tall and athletic and when they
find out that I don’t play this sport they are puzzled. But that is all
you can expect from the sheep as it is incomprehensible to them that
you wouldn’t use your gift and play a sport that you have an advantage
in because they never consider whether something is rewarding!
and if it is what they really want for themselves. They just become
what society says they should be and as a result forfeit their reward
without ever knowing of its existence.
One might argue that by not conforming and being part of the herd one
puts himself at risk, but while in history there are many instances where
the non-conformist is killed, there are just as many instances where the
herd has been led over a cliff by blindly following their shepherd. A
list of the wrong doings caused by people being a herd and committing
wrong because their shepherd says it is right is long and reaches from
the beginning of man to the present. From the Spanish Inquisition,
Slavery, America and its treatment of Native Americans, all the way to
present day and the slaughter of Albanians without remorse by Slobodan
Milosevic and his followers.
In recent history there exists one excellent example of the horrible
consequences that result from men being sheep and conforming rather
than being a man and questioning the actions of the herd. The result of
this senselessness and refusal to look inside themselves caused them
to follow a shepherd who would lead them to their deaths physically
and/or morally. The shepherd was named Adolph Hitler and the herd was
the German people. Due to the German people’s conformity and refusal to
question Hitler and the Nazi party they became part of a war that would
kill millions of their own. For those who would live through the war,
they would live their lives with the huge moral burden of knowing that
their conformity allowed for the death of millions of Jews. All because
they refused to be men.
Emerson’s message hasn’t fallen completely on deaf ears for some of us
are men and think for ourselves. Unfortunately the majority of people
are still sheep constantly looking for a shepherd to guide them. So until
the majority of people have given up being part of the herd, we men must
watch out for ourselves, we must continue to resist the shepherds call,
as to become a sheep is as good as death.
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